Leonardo has signed, with the Italian National Directorate of the Italian Defence Ministry, two contracts for an initial batch of five Aermacchi M-345 trainer aircraft and for the first phase of development and delivery programme of the new exploration and escort helicopters (NEES) for the Italian Army.

The combined value of the contracts is in excess of 500 million Euros.

The Italian Air Force has a total requirement for around 45 M-345s (designated as T-345 by the Italian Armed Forces) to progressively replace the 137 in-service MB-339 aircraft which entered into operation in 1982. The new aircraft will work alongside the fleet of 18 twin-engine Aermacchi M-346s already ordered and currently used by the Italian Air Force for the advanced phase of flight training.

The multiyear contract for the new exploration and escort helicopter (NEES) of the Italian Army envisages the study, development, industrialization, production and testing of a prototype and three initial production aircraft. Through this new programme, based on a total requirement for 48 units, the Italian Army will be able to replace the current fleet of AW129 which are expected to be retired from service by 2025 following over 35 years in operations. The NEES programme will benefit from the long operational expertise gained by the Italian Army thanks to the AW129 and from the know-how of Leonardo in this specific helicopter sector.